Author Archive: RTMcNeely

Gov. Brown’s Progressive Budget Alternative

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We all know that Gov. Christie has ruled out any and all revenue-side solutions to New Jersey’s fiscal problems. The State Treasurer just reiterated that Christie would veto any tax extension, even a surcharge on New Jersey’s wealthiest and most comfortable residents.

Our governors next door, Gov. Corbett in Pennsylvania and Gov. Cuomo in New York, have made the same promises. They refuse to look at an entire half of the budget ledger, preferring to “share” the sacrifice with everyone but the rich. So one might wonder, since both Republican and Democratic governors are taking this approach, maybe there’s no other way to fix our fiscal problems?

Well, there is an alternative. Gov. Brown in California, confronting one of the country’s most severe budget deficits, has proposed a

balanced budget solution that is essentially fifty percent revenue enhancements and fifty percent spending cuts. While Gov. Brown knows that his proposed spending cuts will be painful, he is drawing a line in the sand and refusing to acquiesce to Republican demands to shield the wealthy from their responsibilities. Republicans are even proposing additional corporate tax cuts while simultaneously claiming the state is going bankrupt.

Watch Gov. Brown in his own words below. He’s not going to give in without a fight — hopefully we can get Gov. Brown into one of Christie’s “town halls.” I know he’d refuse to be shouted down.


Chatham Superintendent O’Neill Casualty of Christie’s Meddling

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Last year, Jim O’Neill, superintendent of the Chathams school district (Chatham is my hometown and I attended Chatham public schools), made public statements that Gov. Christie’s cap on superintendent salaries would essentially force him to retire 3-5 years earlier than he had planned. Earlier this month, the Chatham School Board received O’Neill’s retirement papers, but refused to act in the hopes that some sort of legal settlement could be reached. But now O’Neill has made it official — he’s definitely retiring.  more below….

With Friends Like These…

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We all know Gov. Christie’s position on public employee pensions. He wants to “reform” (i.e. heavily cut) them and is willing to compromise other priorities in pursuit of this goal. In his budget address, he explicitly said he would use a $500 million payment to the pension fund as “leverage” for broad reforms — nevermind that he is legally obligated to make that payment in this fiscal year regardless of any legislative action on pensions. The bottom line: we know where Chris Christie and other national conservative movement leaders stand on public employee pensions. Their position is clear.

What about national Democrats? more below…

Chris Christie Has Enough Power

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On its face, Gov. Christie’s firing of two members of the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission seems like small potatoes given everything else going on in our state. But it’s part of a broader administration push to maximize the governor’s power in all areas of governance, and it’s past time for NJ moderates to say “enough.”

The office of the Governor of New Jersey is one of the most powerful state-wide offices in the entire nation. more below….

“Shared Sacrifice”: Mentally Ill & Disabled Edition

Remember after the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by a violently disturbed individual, we as a nation were going to re-prioritize mental health services? Well, it’s not turning out that way.

By now we know that Gov. Christie’s budget cuts are going to disproportionally hurt the most vulnerable New Jerseyans, including the mentally ill. The state department with the largest percentage cut is Health and Senior Services (15%), and Christie is once again angling to close a state mental hospital, among other moves.

But did you know that these cuts are part of a nationwide trend, in both state capitols and the federal government?  

Gov. Corbett Copies Christie’s “Shared Sacrifice” Budget

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On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett delivered his budget address, and the results aren’t pretty. It’s more of the same conservative governing philosophy we’ve seen around the country. Corbett claims government is so broke that he needs to lay off 1,500 state workers (most of them in mental health services), but he has re-instated a phase-out of corporate tax breaks that was canceled by predecessor Ed Rendell. The state is going to cut dental services for Medicaid recipients and insist on teacher pay freezes while refusing to levy any additional taxes. Does this sound familiar?

It’s essentially the Christie budget sold with Christie’s “shared sacrifice” rhetoric. Corbett says, “If government is here to share the taxpayer’s wealth then everyone needs to share in the sacrifice,” but he has a very strange definition of “everyone.” State Sen. Daylin Leach hits the nail on the head:

“He talked about how we all have to make sacrifices,” State Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery) said of Corbett, “but then he excluded whole sections of the population. What sacrifice does an energy executive have to make? What sacrifice does someone making $1 million a year have to make? Too many of the sacrifices are weighted toward people on the lowest end of the economic scale or the middle class.”

And as Will Bunch notes (via Atrios), there’s plenty of revenue potential in Pennsylvania due to its resource-rich upstate industrial development, but Corbett won’t budge, despite 60% of Pennsylvanians support taxing the natural gas industry at a rate comparable with such socialist bastions as Wyoming and Texas. Right now, out-of-state corporations drilling on the Marcellus Shale are taxed at the staggering rate of 0.0%.

You know, a budget is fundamentally about setting priorities, and it’s pretty hard to hide behind actual numbers on a page. When you refuse to tax your largest campaign contributors while eliminating over half of funding to your state’s universities, it says something about you, both as a person and a politician. More progressives need to engage with these state budgets and educate themselves about what’s going on here. More on this point soon.